A group exhibition featuring the works of Jef Carnay, Noel Soler Cuizon, Don Djerassi Dalmacio, Karen Ocampo Flores, Manny Garibay, Lotsu Manes, Kirby Roxas, and Wesley Valenzuela.
Of Realities and Mysteries
Though “Misteryo ng Liwanag” may be considered as a gathering of notable artists highly identified as catalysts of the TutoK exhibitions that made significant exhibitions beginning 2006, their works stand on their own, autonomous from the burdens of history while carrying on the legacy of critique and discernment through thought-provoking pieces. As the artists dwell on themes of transfiguration and enlightenment, their creative energies focus not only on looking back, relocating present positions and shining the spotlight on thresholds to envisioned changes that still hang, precariously, on hope.
Wesley Valenzuela presents light-boxed assemblages with his iconic symbols in different juxtapositions showing graphic figures of myriad objects interspersed with smoke and flames. Symbols of urban life fill his gold-framed pieces, reiterating the artist’s fascination with the grit and grime of daily existence. With the dissonance and chaos of city life, he still employs balance and symmetry in laying out the imagery in each piece.
For Karen Ocampo Flores, the words Rey de Oros label what appears to be a tarot card, the central figure King or Kingmaker. The usual interpretation of the card presents a king of gold embodying maturity and reliability, prudence and intelligence. Any person who is represented as such is linked to success and status. In Flores’ work, however, the figure sports no head but an opened eye confronting the audience, with golden orbs and visions of royalty milling about.
Lotsu Manes’ painting rides the popularity of the ten-year challenge in social media through the comparison of two scenes side by side – to the left is a rice field in its rich, resplendent, verdant glory, while to the right, a termite-eaten interpretation of the same scene shows the ravages of time and destruction of agricultural lands as they are repurposed for commercial use. In the midst of both images, a farmer stares into the horizon, his expression unreadable.
Don Djerassi Dalmacio’s subject dangles on anticipation, waiting for what’s next. Anxiety and fear of unseen futures serve as background for the lone dog guarding his turf and waiting for anything or anyone to arrive. Only then can it take action, whether to bark loudly in alarm or whimper in dread. The palpable uncertainty in the painting translates to sentiments found in the public sphere, given the unpredictability of actions that may be launched by authorities in the blink of an eye.
Manny Garibay’s painting contain uniformed cadets finding themselves immersed in water, numerous nameless, featureless individuals stripped of identifying characteristics as they find themselves thrown together in a common cause to serve. What is unseen, however, are the dangers they find themselves in institutions that are not only supposed to prepare them to man armies, but also keep them safe while in the process of learning how to destroy perceived threats.
A mixed media assemblage created by Noel Soler Cuizon sports figures as well, with a more varied set of characters. Angels, saints and cherubs find themselves with anting-antings and oracions, while IP women are portrayed with mestizas. A smaller drawing serves as punctuation “with the whiff of rust and fire” which coins Duterterizing as it portrays PRD with the text overlay Hanggang Matapos ang Kailanpaman (Until Forever Ends) draw commentary on fanatic declarations of loyalty and blind devotion.
Kirby Roxas continues his exploration of lenticular paintings in his piece, with a seeming angel/savior figure as a central character. People flock towards this figure, their backs turned away from the audience as they appear entranced by it. Trudging towards the same direction en masse to a structure looming in the distance, a different angle to the right of the piece paints the image in contrasting colors.
Jef Carnay’s 7-piece performance object spell out SALVAJE with each coffee and tea stained wood rendered with acrylic, pen and colored pencil drawings that appear like flash cards, but take the form of floor warning signs. They then entice the viewer to read and re-interpret known meanings of salvaje whichin local parlance means bad, influenced by the Spanish word for savage and uncivilized. The objects take the space of the artist’s body in the space.
In the context of current socio-political and economic issues faced by every Filipino, there seem to be dark clouds hovering overhead, enveloping our collective consciousness. “Misteryo ng Liwanag” is a gentle reminder that somewhere, light still exists, and change – real change – is always another day away. What the exhibition brings together is a potent representation of each artist’s most pressing concerns as both observer and chronicler – witnessing similarities of then and now, they spring a collective challenge to audiences and fellow artist-stakeholders – what to do now? Will somebody else take action to light up and make sparks?
Words by Kaye O’Yek